Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, lauded as long-lasting light sources that save energy and reduce pollution, face one major drawback, the inconvenience of disposal due to mercury content, a neurotoxin which can cause kidney and brain damage. According to environmental researchers at Stanford, although the bulbs contain only five milligrams of mercury—barely enough to cover the tip of a pen—this small quantity can contaminate 6,000 gallons of water. Mercury contained within the bulb is harmless, but all light bulbs—even CFLs able to last up to 10,000 hours—eventually break or burn out. Consumers who dispose of CFLs in the trash rather than the recycle bin contribute to a hazardous amount of mercury entering the waste stream. Fortunately, some central Illinois businesses are providing consumers with safe and easy ways to recycle.
How Bad Is It?
Mercury in fluorescent bulbs is no minor contributor to the toxins that nibble away at the grassroots of our environment. Each year, an estimated 600 million lamps are tossed in U.S. landfills, amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 187 incinerators nationwide emit approximately 70,000 total pounds of mercury into the environment each year. In 1997, mercury was number three on the list of hazardous substances outlined by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the EPA.
Knowing Where to Go
To help counter such statistics, counties throughout central Illinois, such as Peoria and Tazewell, are providing communities with quality recycling facilities to dispose of compact fluorescent bulbs. Illinois is one of just seven states that ban the disposal of CFLs as general waste, and those counties with qualified recycling facilities are limited to an average of one per county. Approved facilities in Peoria County include the Home Depot across from The Shoppes at Grand Prairie and Farmington Road Hardware in West Peoria. John Becker, owner of Farmington Road Hardware, claims the company began a collection bin for CFLs at the end of October 2007, one of the first to offer such a program. Residents can bring in their fluorescent bulbs, and Becker will ship them to Flourecycle, Inc., a privately-held business headquartered in suburban Chicago and a leader in the recycling industry. iBi